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Posts Tagged ‘edutainment

Anyone who might have red my reflection about edutainment might think I dislike fact-based shows. Not true.

Video source 

I like QI. I like it even more that I have insights into their people and processes thanks to the video above. I would normally use such a video to emphasise the importance of “processes behind product”.

But I link it to my previous stream of consciousness instead. Edutainment is not helpful if it is done only to get attention, to compensate for the lack of a teacher’s imagination, or for some short term gain. 

It can be powerful if it is part of a larger strategy. For example, something from popular culture might be an initial hook for a think-pair-share activity, subsequent whole class discussion, and a consolidation by reflection. 

The point is this: An entertaining video has little or no educational content until an educator facilitates thought and action around it. This might seem like an unnecessary statement to make, but I have observed far too many teachers use YouTube videos as fire-and-forget missiles. 

Like most synchronous learning resources, YouTube videos do not hit targets on their own. They need to be guided as do the students.

There is a line between entertainment and education. Unfortunately, some paint that line and call it “edutainment”.

A problem with edutainment is that it is sometimes confused with education. Consider the video below as an example.

Video source

Intentionally or not, the show QI informs almost as much as it entertains. It provides factoids to those who did not previously know them and so the show is potentially educational. It enlists comedians and celebrities to provide commentary and so it is entertaining. It is arguably a form edutainment.

I love QI, but I sometimes cringe when I hear the panelists on the show (or the hosts of the podcast) say ignorant, anthropomorphic, or otherwise counterproductive things in the name of getting a laugh. If the audiences know why they are laughing, there is little harm done. The problem is that they probably do not.

The video is about the termite queen. It is fascinating and fact-filled. But it is also introduced as disgusting or gross, and judged from how humans might behave or react. It might inform audiences about the termite queen’s life, but it also reinforces narrow perspectives and ignorance. The nett effect is neither more knowledge nor an educated audience.

The teaching of any subject does not have to rely on edutainment. It should not because students already bring their biases and gaps to a learning space. Edutainment could reinforce that state instead of breaking it.

The teaching of those academic subjects needs to be engaging and empowering in itself. If we rely largely on Hollywood, then we might lack the imagination and passion for what we teach.


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